New York’s Magnificent and Nostalgic Bowery Hotel
By Nick Kontis
On a cold, blustery winter day on New York’s eclectic Lower East Side, I arrived, tired and jetlagged, at my home for the next three nights, a true New York classic, the Bowery Hotel.
I have always been enthralled by the gritty streets surrounding the historic property: SoHo, Chinatown, Little Italy and the Bowery, all intertwined in the East Village.
For any visit to Manhattan, visitors will surely find themselves meandering the sinewy streets, or getting lost shopping for knockoff couture fashion on Canal Street.
The Bowery Hotel has been calling me for over a decade since a local suggested a visit to the hotel that I had already had on my radar.
I was intrigued to visit, and excited to call The Bowery Hotel my home away from home for a weekend of exploration in the Big Apple.
I had come to see for myself the transformation of an area that for a century was synonymous with “skid row” and which now has become a choice neighborhood for artists, foodies, bar hoppers and hipsters alike.
“Welcome, Mr. Kontis!”
From the moment I get out of my cab and onto the welcoming red carpet that leads to the hotel entrance, I receive resonating,
“Welcome, Mr. Kontis” from the two cordial young men dressed to the nines, in the hotel’s signature colors of red and black.
They were wearing suits and bowler hats from a bygone era.
I wondered if in my jetlagged state I had actually boarded a plane for London, as rarely is such old world hospitality found in a U.S. hotel.
The Bowery Hotel is the polar opposite from chain hotels that you find in Times Square. The 17 story non-descript brick hotel fits perfectly in the notorious Bowery area.
I soon learned that the polite and stately doormen are just one of the many stylish and classic, old-world touches that make the Bowery Hotel a one of a kind New York experience.
If first impressions are everything, I was sold from the moment that I entered the property. This is not a dime a dozen New York hotel. I have good reason to believe that I’m suspended in a North African time warp, or perhaps I’m in a Hitchcock movie, clearly, I cannot be in New York City.
Knowing that Royal Air Maroc does not fly from California to Marrakesh or Casablanca, there was no chance that I somehow entered into Morocco.
It sure looks Moorish. I quickly notice the unassuming old-world lobby check-in. At check-in, guests do not receive the flimsy, bendable card keys as at typical chain brand
Guests instead receive heavy metal room keys linked to lavish, oversized red tassels, keeping with the hotel’s theme and motif.
Not the Bowery of the Past
This is not the Bowery of the past. The present-day Bowery Hotel’s 2007 opening coincided with a new chapter in the life of its namesake neighborhood.
With its sentimental history of vagabonds, punk rockers, iconoclastic beatniks, painters and poets, artists from every spectrum, and a collection of rule breakers.
Today’s Bowery neighborhood is home to a growing number of independent boutique clothing storefronts, restaurants, eclectic clubs, and bars, plus the area is also home to the new Museum of Contemporary Art.
It’s hard to believe that the Bowery was ever once an ugly and unsavory place.
Guests cross a threshold when they enter the Bowery’s lobby, entering a North African environment. An antidote to minimalist corporate hotels, the public space is full of artful, seductive details that hint of a storied past.
The sublime Moorish masterpiece is hopping most nights of the week, teeming with locals who come for the 1920s like bar’s historic ambiance.
The hospitality dream team of Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson have created a soothing, hip Aladdin like vibe, seemingly a magic carpet ride away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Manhattan.
I’m stunned, as never before have I seen Moorish aches and elaborate, textured Venetian ceilings in a hotel. Handmade dark-wood panels adorn the walls, contrasting with colorful Moroccan tiles. Antique chairs, sofas, and tables, hand-picked by Goode and MacPherson, are softly illuminated by chandelier-like iron fixtures.
An artisan’s mural wraps around the room, depicting 19th-century New York scenes. Old meets contemporary as guests enjoy cocktails, coffee, tea, or light snacks as they chat or peruse a newspaper from the antique wooden racks.
The atmosphere is genial, unhurried, and casual; ideal for mingling, lingering and socializing. The adjacent sunroom suggests an area for guests to enjoy a coffee or tea.
A Spacious Suite
As I enter my spacious suite, which is slightly smaller than the in-law apartment in my San Francisco home, I am once again drawn to the extra added touches that make this hotel more like a homestay.
In the spacious room, one first notices the well-stocked minibar, acting more like your corner market, complete with a nice collection of healthy snacks and munchies.
Goode and Macpherson are truly on to something, transforming the way guests think of a hotel stay. Since they are also travelers, the talented hoteliers asked themselves, what would guests want in a room, and have hit it out of the park with style and comfort.
It’s the small added touches that can transform a hotel room into a home-like stay. I was immediately charmed by my new roommate, the Bowery Hotel’s mascot teddy bear on my bed.
Much more like a New York apartment, straight out of Architectural Digest, the plantation like shuttered windows open from the marble bathroom into the spacious, large living room area, which continues to the oversized outdoor terrace deck, big enough to host a small party.
This is not a hotel room, it’s a one bedroom pied-a-terre, posh and stylish. I’m wondering if this could be my part-time New York home.
Luscious and spacious beds are covered by luxuriant 400-thread-count custom sheets, further accented by giant velvet headboards.
At turndown, after you’ve been out exploring the surrounding area, you return to three cookies in the dish strategically placed on your bed reminding you that this is a level of comfort rarely seen in today’s rushed hotel stays. Then there is that cute teddy bear.
Loft-like floor-to-ceiling, industrial-style factory windows open to majestic Manhattan views. Bathrooms are all dressed in white, complete with railroad tiles, updated with rain shower heads, and even signature Bowery bathrobes remind one of the at home experience.
Turkish Oushak Rugs
In the living room area, Turkish Oushak rugs on soft hardwood floors create a familiar feeling of ease. Lace adorns the comfortable, mohair-upholstered chairs. iPod stereos are at your disposal to play your favorite tunes, and hi-definition televisions complete the homey, soothing feel.
The end result is that the rooms are smart and stylish, and small touches matter. Goode and Macpherson created a labor of love, complete with works of noted photographed particulars from throughout the world.
Knowing that guests appreciate the ability to stay connected, rooms are filled with electrical outlets, with light switches placed at just the right levels. Wi-Fi and
an extensive DVD library are included in every room.
Welcome to the Bowery’s next door eatery called Gemma, perhaps best described by the New York Times restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, who stated, “Gemma has an unlabored panache that makes an evening go down very easy.”
Since 2007, Gemma has become a sought-after, local favorite. Epicurean masterpieces are created by Chef Chris D’Amico.
The vintage décor includes wood-beamed ceilings above candle-lit rooms, jam-packed with New York allure. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, along with a weekend brunch.
The restaurant caters to a discerning, lively crowd in a casual restaurant setting. Filled with character features like the glazed tiles rescued from an old Con Edison building, and the classic oil paintings of character-filled faces which line the other walls.
The Staff Is Listening
The attentive Bowery Hotel staff are listening. I tweet that I forgot my toothbrush, really not expecting much of a response. Almost immediately I get a knock on my door, “Mr. Kontis, your new toothbrush.”
Now, this is a lifestyle hotel that I could get used to.The Bowery Hotel can pamper me anytime. I can’t wait to return.
The Bowery is a dog-friendly hotel. For more information visit www.theboweryhotel.com
Travel industry veteran, Nick Kontis entered the travel industry after a 13 month trip around the world. Upon returning to his native San Francisco, Nick founded the first travel agency in the U.S. specializing in discount around the world airfares. Now as a writing travel and photojournalist, Nick spends the predominant part of his year in San Francisco, Napa, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Angeles. Follow Nick on his website at www.nicholaskontis.com